This String Quartet is made up of three movements with the two outer movements serving as mirrored poles and a contrasting second movement in the middle. The piece is very free but the first and third movements are comprised (almost) entirely of a repetitive intervallic pattern which is cut up and manipulated in many ways, so as to make it mostly unrecognizable. In the second movement, the darkness of the outer movements subsides, giving way to a droning foundation and singing melody. Tremendous gratitude belongs to the literary work of William S. Burroughs, whose revolutionary “cut up“ method in part inspired the techniques that I employed throughout the piece in developing my interval fragments.
This piece is a meditative drone based composition which features the Buchla analog synthesizer processed in Max/MSP. Individual sounds were layered on top of one another using the record~ object to store sounds in a buffer~. These musical objects were then looped using groove~ to form a psychedelic texture which envelops the listener. Below I will describe the process through which each sound was developed.
The first drone to enter on the note G was created using the principal oscillator on the Buchla’s 259 module. This sound was panned hard left and includes timbre modulation on the buchla itself as well as further filtering using the cascade~ object in Max/MSP.
The second drone to enter on the note C was created with the modulation oscillator on the Buchla 259. This sound had minimal processing in Max, and instead it’s interest was generated using the Buchla’s 291E triple morphing filter.
The third and fourth sounds to enter are sequences that were created using the Buchla 259E modules principal and modulation oscillators respectively and tuned to specific intervals from the C harmonic series using the 250 sequencer. Each step in the sequence was triggered using the 216 keyboard pulse function. The two sequences were then delayed in Max using the tapin~ and tapout~ objects, with the random object changing the set delay time so that each iteration of the sequence is different.
The fifth and final sound to be recorded into Max was made using the 259’s principal oscillator tuned to the same pitch as the very first drone. However, the sound was modulated using the the 259 modulation oscillator via the hard-wired modulation switches for pitch and timbre and turning the modulation pot gradually over a period of time fixed by the buffer~ object in Max. Unlike the first sound, this sound was panned hard to both the left and right channels.
List of Intervals for 259E sequences:
Principal Oscillator – 2/1, 6/5, 11/8, 3/2, 6/5, 17/16
Winston Smith Enters Room 101 is a piece inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. All of the spoken portions of the piece are lines borrowed from the novel. The intention of the music is to characterize the state of mind of Winston Smith, the book’s protagonist, when he is tortured and dehumanized in Room 101 – a place within the Ministry of Love where dissidents are faced with “the worst thing in the world” in order recondition them to accept their totalitarian reality and to love Big Brother.
Andrew Cardwell, Tyler Golding, Vincent Lei- Percussion
With the Shapes is a sort of compound piece made up of two entirely different settings of the same text by Michael McClure – Song (I work with the Shape).The first setting, for female voice (alto) and piano treats the poem with mystery and ambiguity. The second setting, for male voice (bass/baritone) and guitar, is a bit brighter and more energetic.
Shall the Circle Survive? for double saxophone quartet is told from the perspective of an unknown narrator, whose voice is heard in the piece from the various members of the ensemble. Having just lost a loved one, their (the narrator’s) jumbled thoughts of mourning are heard at the very beginning. These thoughts are interrupted throughout the piece by longer musical passages as the narrator’s mind becomes intoxicated by pleasant memories of the one they mourn. Yet their mind always returns to the somber contemplation heard at the beginning.
Much of the piece is based on the folk hymn Will the Circle be Unbroken. All of the spoken portions of this piece are adapted from the lyrics of the Carter Family recording of the song from 1927.
The first patch, originally conceived as an attempt at Krell Patching which fell short, became a sort of blanket or foundation for the rest of the piece. It consists of three sound sources: one from the principal oscillator on the 259 and 259e respectively, run into the 292C, as well as a noise source from the 266. The two sounds of the 259 and 259e are somewhat randomized by the 281 as their attack and decay settings are being voltage controlled by various random voltages coming from the 266, as well as pitch and timbre. The noise source is being sent through the filter to produce a pitch approximate to that coming from the two oscillators (when not effected by pitch modulation).
The second patch is a sound source from the 259e which is run through the 250 sequencer. It begins with a loop to stage four, then to five, six, seven, and 8, before returning to only 4 stages of looping at the end of the piece. It is tuned to a series of notes which doesn’t change do-mi-so-te-do-me-fa-fi (in movable do). This provides a rhythmic driving feel for the composition as well as shifts in metric feel. The 291e filter was used to mitigate some of the amplitude issues, by using the adder to reduce the voltage amount as the notes ascend in pitch (wherein they would become too loud relative to the lower notes of the sequence).
The third patch was easiest to produce, and consisted of a single low frequency which is filtered by the 291e using the morphing stages to sweep up and down a fixed range of harmonics using the frequency controls. The 281 and 292 were used to produce its envelope shape.
The fourth and final patch focuses on the 216, used to effect the pitch of a sound-source from the 259’s principal oscillator. The first row of CV’s was used to tune the keyboard to the “blues” scale. Notes of the scale are introduced gradually throughout the piece as they are heard in the sequence generated by the 250 in the second patch. The 281 was used to generate an envelope for the timbre modulation effecting the 259’s principal oscillator. The modulation oscillator is amplitude modulating the principal and a random voltage from the 266 is used to modulate the pitch of the modulation oscillator. A few times in the piece, while I was performing this track (which took many attempts, mind) I turned the pitch modulation pot on the modulation oscillator to produce dissonant and chaotic sounds, usually timed loosely with the low droning pitch of the third patch.
The title is a sort of play on words, as this groovy piece is performed on an instrument designed by the one and only Don Buchla.
Regarding the use of the 250e module in this composition, I used only one simple patch to produce about 10 different sounds. The very first sound, which is heard three times throughout the duration of the piece, is the only one which is not manipulated in some way by the 250e. Basically my process was to set the 250e to loop from 1 to 5 always. Then using the controls for the voltage output I used the CV output 1 in order to modulate the pitch, morph and warp of the 259e in various way, both in combination and independently. I also used the 250e to send CV and pulses out to the 292C with the sound source from the 259e being filtered by the 291e, and run into the 292C.